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6 home repairs you can do yourself

Being a homeowner or renter has its challenges. It seems like every week there’s a new house repair on your fix-it list, and we get it – the prospect of tackling home repairs on your own can seem pretty daunting. But, knowing a few basic home repairs will help keep your household costs lower, and many can be done in just a few simple steps. So, read on for 6 easy home fixes you can do yourself without expensive tools or complicated instructions.

Tools you should have for home repairs

Before jumping into any home repair, you want to make sure you’re properly prepared. One of the biggest barriers to doing your own repairs is not having the right tools at home. Any home handyperson should keep the following items in their toolbox, just in case:

  • A multi-bit screwdriver set. Most people have the basic Philips and flat head screwdrivers, but a multi-bit can help in any situation.
  • A claw hammer. This one’s obvious – a hammer helps you with delicate jobs like putting up pictures and more advanced tasks like deck building.
  • A hardware set. What’s a hammer without nails? Keep a set of nails and screws handy as well so you don’t have to rush to the hardware store.
  • An adjustable wrench. You’ll need this to tighten nuts and bolts.
  • A five-piece plier set. Use pliers to pull out nails, straighten a bent power plug and more.
  • A putty knife. Smooth spackle, peel paint and remove tub caulk with this tool.
  • A utility knife. With its blade stored inside the handle, this knife comes in handy for cutting wallpaper and cardboard boxes.
  • A flashlight. Lighting’s important for harder-to-reach jobs. Pick up an LED flashlight so it’ll last longer.

1. Fix a leaky faucet

Drip, drip, drip… a leaky faucet can put anyone’s nerves on edge and can waste a lot of water – which means higher water bills. It can even cause water damage to your home (something you definitely want to avoid!). Leaky faucets are usually caused by a worn-out washer, which is meant to create a seal when the tap’s turned off. If the washer is cracked or worn down, water will escape and cause dripping. The good news is, this type of leak is pretty easy to fix on your own, and you can pick up the necessary parts at any hardware store. A quick online search will turn up many reliable sources that you can follow along with – we recommend this easy to follow guide by Popular Mechanics. However, if you suspect it’s something more serious or it continues to leak after you’ve replaced the washer, it’s best to call a plumber.

2. Fix a running toilet

Much like a leaky faucet, a running toilet can be a major water waster and spike the cost of your monthly bills. Instead of hiring a pricey plumber, you can probably fix this minor issue yourself – but it’s best to buy a toilet repair kit to get the job done. These kits are sold at most big-box hardware and all-purpose stores and include everything you need to fix your toilet, including step-by-step instructions. And, the hardware is generally universal and designed to fit all brands, so there’s no need to worry about if it’ll work with your toilet.

3. Unclog a slow-draining sink or tub

As soon as you notice a sluggish sink or tub, try unclogging it yourself before the problem gets worse. Usually, using things you already have in your house will do just the trick. Here’s what you can do to clear your drain before calling a plumber:

  • Kitchen sink. A slow-draining kitchen sink is usually caused by oil and fat buildup, but it could also be plugged with debris. (Remember, the best way to avoid a clogged kitchen sink is to use the strainer to collect bits of food, and never pour oils or fats down the drain.)
    1. First, try using a plunger to dislodge the possible culprit.
    2. If that doesn’t work, try the baking soda method – pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup of white vinegar.
    3. Cover the drain with a stopper and wait 15 minutes for the mixture to do its magic, then run the hot water to clear the clog.
  • Bathtub. Tub drains usually get clogged by fallen hair and product buildup. This process can get a little yucky, so you might want to wear gloves.
    1. If your tub drain has a screen, remove the screw and set both screen and screw aside so you don’t misplace them.
    2. Using long needle nose pliers, reach into the drain and pull out as much hair as you can.
    3. Run the hot water for a couple of minutes to ensure it’s clear, and to wash away any remaining product buildup.
    4. Replace the screen and screw (if necessary).

    4. Clean a smelly washing machine

    If your washing machine’s giving off a funky smell, it’s probably due to mildew. To get rid of the odour, first read the washer’s instruction manual and follow any draining and cleaning procedures for your particular model. After that, it’s time to scrub, sanitize and deodorize:

    1. Scrub the door and drum. Use an old toothbrush and cotton swabs to get inside every crack and crevice. If you have a front-loading washer, scrub the rubber seal where mould and bacteria can build up. For a top loader, be sure to clean under the door. For both, remove the soap dispensers and wash those, too.
    2. Sanitize. Bleach is best for killing mould and mildew, but for your safety never mix it with other cleaners (and wear protective gloves during this step). If you prefer, you can use hydrogen peroxide in its place. For a top loader, fill the drum with the hottest water possible and pour in 4 cups of bleach. Front loaders use 1/2 cup of bleach in the bleach compartment. Run a cycle, and if you can still smell bleach, run another cycle to rinse.
    3. Deodorize. Plain white vinegar is your best friend for removing any lingering bacteria. Follow step 2 using vinegar and you should be good to go! Remember to use a soft cloth to dry inside and outside of the machine.

    TIP: Give your washing machine a monthly cleaning to prevent odours from coming back.

    5. Patch a small hole in the wall

    Most homeowners have at least a few small holes in their walls from nails or screws used for hanging pictures, shelves, or a TV. Unsightly? Yes. Impossible to fix? No! Making your walls look as good as new again is simple – and all you need is some spackle, a putty knife, fine sandpaper, and matching paint. First, fill the hole with spackle (try spackle sold in a tube for more precision) and scrape off the excess with the putty knife. Let it dry, sand down until smooth, and paint over the patch with a matching colour. And renters – this is an important skill for you to learn, too, since in some provinces, like Ontario,1 a landlord can legally ask a tenant to repair (or pay for) any damage not caused by normal wear and tear.

    TIP: For holes that are up to 3 inches, there are patch kits you can buy which follow the same steps as above, but come with a piece of strong material (like metal) to cover larger holes. If the hole is quite large, however, you might have to hire a professional drywaller to patch it up for you.

    6. Repair minor cracks in the driveway

    Did you know that moisture can seep through the ground into the foundation of your home through cracks in your driveway? Not only can seepage cause water damage to your home, this particular type of damage often isn’t covered by your home insurance.

    If you’ve got minor cracks in your driveway, consider filling them yourself using asphalt filler, available at most hardware stores. It’s simple – just use a broom or leaf blower to clear away debris in and around the cracks, follow the instructions on the filler’s label to fill the cracks, and let the filler dry before using your driveway again. Be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants to protect your skin.

    TIP: If the cracks are over 1/4-inch wide, it might signal more serious problems. In this case, it’s best to get professional advice on what to do.

    There are plenty of online videos to help guide you through these basic repairs – just make sure the source is reputable. It’s also important to know when to call a professional. Repairs like electrical work and extensive renovations can be dangerous to take on yourself. For these projects, it’s best to call an expert to get the job done, and be sure to update your insurer on any changes you make to your home. Remember, there are always home updates that will make your insurance company happy!


    Protect your home and the things you love most. How to Fix a Leaky Faucet Brochure: Maintenance and Repairs